Dentistry’s Boom Time – Gina Vega
Gina Vega explains how communication with your patients is vital to take advantage of a possible boom time in dentistry.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have rocked the dental profession to its core – but better times are around the corner.
That’s the message increasingly shared by experts over recent weeks, and one that Dentistry Online is backing unequivocally.
And as a result, we’re launching our ‘Boom Time’ campaign to remind the profession that things can only get better.
There is a surging interest in dental treatments from patients stuck at home and looking at images of themselves on a screen all day. We find out how some dental practices are positioning themselves to take advantage of this surge.
This week we speak to Gina Vega, principal dentist at Bishopsgate Dental Care.
What has your recovery been like since you’ve opened the practice?
Our recovery has been fantastic.
I tried to make a plan before we came out of lockdown in July. We weren’t ready to re-open as soon as it was announced we could, so I didn’t panic about it. For me, what was more important was that I had a structure in place.
This gave my reception team an opportunity to start calling all those patients with emergencies. We probably had around 100 emergencies.
My plan was, contrary to many other practices, to start AGPs from day one with the aim to get through all the emergencies as soon as possible. We went from AGP to AGP all day, 12 hours a day!
Announcing that we were open brought a lot of people, even into the city, to come and see us. People were desperate to see a dentist at that time.
We started noticing the Zoom boom pretty quickly. People called saying: ‘I’m using Zoom and I don’t really like how my teeth look’. They wanted to do something about it.
Of course, they didn’t have holidays that summer or social events. So the money was there, they were ready to start ASAP.
Around 70% of our patients are paying in full at the beginning of the treatment!
That’s available to all practices, so why are you experiencing this more so than others?
I think it’s the way we managed the practice during lockdown and the work we did in the past.
In the last four/five years I have invested heavily in social advertising – Google, Facebook etc. We have very good SEO in place, and we have built up a very good reputation.
We started seeing in February last year that the number of patients was diminishing. People weren’t happy to come into the city. As a practice owner there is one thing to do in this situation and it is to stop any unnecessary expenses.
I stopped all of the advertising. We were surprised that even after stopping the advertising, we had leads generating organically. I think this is because of the work we put in beforehand, it was finally paying off.
We were also in contact with patients throughout the lockdown. We were posting a newsletter every month reminding people of their oral hygiene and offering our emergency services.
A large number of the people we sent it to were not patients at that point. But we were still saying we are here, and if you have an emergency call our number.
I also think that the atmosphere at the practice speaks by itself. People that know us already are happy with our services, they recommend us to other people and so on.
It sounds like you did all the groundwork pre-pandemic. Looking forward, those practices that might have missed that opportunity, what can they do now to try and improve their position?
I think patients now want to see a well-structured, well prepared COVID practice.
Even though we are vaccinating more and more people, they do like to see the measures that are in place when they arrive.
The patient journey has changed from before. A lot of practices are making the changes, but there’s nothing wrong with highlighting it.
Also, I think advertising is important. There is no other way that people would know what you are offering if you don’t advertise it.
Is there a particular type of treatment that patients come in and ask for?
Aesthetics certainly. Anything like Invisalign, composite bonding, teeth whitening. Patients know what composite bonding is now, there’s so much on social media. Also, facial aesthetics is a growing area.
As dentists we have almost forgotten about blogs. But I think blogs are quite important now in order to increase the awareness around your practice. A few years ago, we did a blog about facial aesthetics for men, and that has really taken off!
Another thing that we found very interesting is that we have patients who say they are excited to see us because they haven’t been into the city for a year. These are people who would come to the practice because we are close to where they work. But they are still coming to the practice even though they need to get a train and/or take the underground to come to us.
It’s important to build a good reputation from now.
The boom is definitely from advertising, blogs – and other things such as video consultations that we do. The patient calls and tells us whether they want a face-to-face consultation or to talk directly with a dentist.
I am a very hands-on dentist so I take on the video consultations, I don’t give them to the treatment coordinator. Why? Because I love being in contact with my patients, and the practice has gone so well that now I’m only working three days a week and we are probably earning 20% more than we were earning last year.